Washington Wolf Report: 126 Wolves, 27 Packs; First Pack West Of Cascade Crest Documented

The
recovery of Washington’s wolf population continued in 2018 as numbers of
individual wolves, packs, and successful breeding pairs reached their highest
levels since wolves were virtually eliminated from the state in the 1930s.

 

The
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife this week published its annual
year-end report, which shows the state has a minimum of 126 individual wolves,
27 packs, and 15 successful breeding pairs – male and female adults who have
raised at least two pups that survived through the end of the year. A year ago,
those numbers were 122, 22, and 14, respectively.

 

In
2018, for the first time, WDFW documented the presence of a pack west of the
Cascade Crest. A single male wolf in Skagit County, captured in 2017 and fitted
with a radio collar, has been traveling with another wolf through the winter,
thereby achieving pack status. Biologists chose the pack’s name – Diobsud
Creek.

 

“We’re
pleased to see our state’s wolf population continue to grow and begin to expand
to the west side of the Cascades,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind.
“We will continue to work with the public to chart the future management
of this important native species.”

 

Information
and survey findings are compiled from state, tribal, and federal wildlife
specialists based on aerial surveys, remote cameras, wolf tracks, and signals
from radio-collared wolves. As in past years, the annual count provides
estimates of the minimum numbers of wolves in the state, because it is not
possible to count every wolf.

 

Virtually
eliminated from the state by the 1930s, Washington’s gray wolf population has
rebounded since 2008, when WDFW wildlife managers documented a resident pack in
Okanogan County. Most packs occupy land in Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille
counties in the northeast corner of the state, but the survey revealed
increasing numbers in Washington’s southeast corner and the north-central
region.

 

Although
the 2018 annual count showed a modest increase in individual wolves, the upturn
in new packs and breeding pairs in those areas set the stage for more growth
this year, said Donny Martorello, WDFW wolf policy lead.

 

“Packs
and breeding pairs are the building blocks of population growth,”
Martorello said. ‘It’s reassuring to see our wolf population occupying more
areas of the landscape.”

 

State
management of wolves is guided by the department’s 2011 Wolf Conservation and
Management Plan, which establishes standards for wolf-management actions.

 

Since
1980, gray wolves have been listed under state law as endangered throughout
Washington. In the western two-thirds of the state, they are classified as
endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

 

As
required for all state-listed species, WDFW is currently conducting a periodic
status review of the state’s gray wolf population to evaluate the species’
listing status, Martorello said.

 

“The
state’s wolf management plan lays out a variety of recovery objectives, but the
ultimate determination of a species’ listing status is whether it remains at
risk of failing or declining,” Martorello said.

 

The
2018 annual count reflects the net one-year change in Washington’s wolf
population after accounting for births, deaths, and wolves that have traveled
into or out of Washington to form new packs or join existing ones. In 2018, two
wolves dispersed with one forming the Butte Creek pack in southeastern
Washington while the other wolf traveled through Oregon down to Idaho.
 

 

WDFW
also recorded 12 wolf deaths during 2018. Six (6) were legally killed by tribal
hunters; four (4) were killed by WDFW in response to repeated wolf-caused
livestock deaths; and two (2) other mortalities apparently were caused by
humans and remained under investigation at year’s end.

 

Ben
Maletzke, WDFW statewide wolf specialist, said the 2018 annual report
reinforces the profile of wolves as a highly resilient, adaptable species whose
members are well-suited to Washington’s rugged, expansive landscape. He said
their numbers in Washington have increased by an average of 28 percent per year
since 2008.

 

“Wolves
routinely face threats to their survival – from humans, other animals, and
nature itself,” he said. “But despite each year’s ups and downs, the
population in Washington has grown steadily and probably will keep increasing
by expanding their range in the north and south Cascades of Washington.”

 

Maletzke
said the 2018 survey documented six packs formed in 2018 – Butte Creek, Nason,
OPT, Sherman, Diobsud Creek and Nanuem – while one pack, Five Sisters,
disbanded due to unknown causes.

 

With
funding support from state lawmakers, WDFW has steadily increased its efforts
to collaborate with livestock producers, conservation groups, and local
residents to minimize conflict between wolves and livestock and other domestic
animals, Maletzke said.

 

WDFW
used several strategies last year to prevent and minimize conflicts, including
cost-sharing agreements with 31 ranchers who worked with WDFW to protect their
livestock. State financial and technical assistance helped to support the use
of conflict prevention measures which included range riders to check on
livestock, guard dogs, lighting, flagging for fences, and data sharing on wolf
movements.

 

Maletzke
said five of the 27 packs known to exist in Washington last year were involved
in at least one livestock mortality. WDFW investigators confirmed wolves killed
at least 11 cattle and one sheep and injured another 19 cattle and two sheep.
WDFW processed five livestock damage claims totaling $7,536 to compensate
producers for direct wolf-caused livestock losses and one indirect claim for
$5,950, which compensates the producer for reduced weight gains and other
factors associated with wolf-livestock interaction.

 

Consistent
with the Wolf Plan and the department’s Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol,
WDFW used lethal measures to remove individual wolves from three packs after
non-lethal measures failed to deter them from preying on livestock. WDFW
euthanized two members of the OPT pack, and one member apiece from the Togo and
Smackout packs.

 

Contributors
to WDFW’s annual report include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S.
Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program, the Confederated
Colville Tribes and the Spokane Tribe of Indians.

 

The
report will be reviewed with the state Fish and Wildlife Commission when it
meets April 5-6 in Olympia. That meeting and a discussion about the report will
be broadcast live at 1:30 p.m. April 5 at
https://www.tvw.org/schedule-main/.
The survey report will be posted on WDFW’s website by April 5 at
https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/gray-wolf.

 

Wolf
population chart available at:

https://wdfw.wa.gov/sites/default/files/news/2019/wolves_breeding-pairs_03.jpg

 

Also
see:

 


CBB, March 8, 2019, “USFWS Proposes Lifting Federal Protections For Wolves;
Legal Challenges Predicted”
http://www.cbbulletin.com/442251.aspx

 

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